Sentencing and Arbitrary detention of Mrs. Umida Niyazova - UZB 002 / 0207 / OBS 012.1

03/05/2007
Urgent Appeal

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the sentencing to seven years of imprisonment of Mrs. Umida Niyazova, a human rights defender and a journalist who used to work at the Uzbek office of the international NGOs Internews and Freedom House and played an active role in many international human rights and social projects in Uzbekistan.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Uzbekistan.

New information:

According to the information received, on April 30, 2007, the Tashkent’s Sergeli District Court started the trial of Mrs. Umida Niyazova without preliminary notification. Mrs. Umida Niyazova was prosecuted for "illegally entering or illegally leaving the Republic of Uzbekistan" (Article 223 of the Penal Code), "preparing and distributing material which poses a threat to public order and security" (Article 244, Paragraph 1) and "smuggling" (Article 246).

Mrs. Umida Niyazova said that she had to go to Kyrgyzstan for personal reasons, but she refused to plead guilty for the two other charges brought against her.

The charge for "smuggling" is related to the laptop computer Mrs. Niyazova had with her when she was arrested at Tashkent airport in December 2006 upon returning from a trip from Bishkek (See background information). Besides, "illegal materials" would be the content of her laptop, including various human rights documents and articles Mrs. Niyazova had collected during a short period she worked in Uzbekistan. Mrs. Niyazova explained to the court that the materials found on her laptop were personal copies for work and were not meant for distribution.

On May 1, 2007, the Tashkent’s Sergeli District Court sentenced Mrs. Niyazova to seven years of imprisonment. Mrs. Niyazova has ten days to appeal as of May 1, 2007.

The Observatory is deeply concerned about the sentencing of Mrs. Umida Niyazova, and fears for her physical and psychological integrity. The Observatory considers her detention, which appears to be aimed at sanctioning her human rights activities, as arbitrary and urges the Uzbek government to release her immediately.


Background information:

On January 22, 2007, Mrs. Umida Niyazova was arrested after she had met her lawyer in Tashkent. She was kept in the pre-trial detention unit in Andijan until January 26, 2007, when she was transferred to the Tashkent Transport Prosecutor’s Office, which launched a criminal case against her on January 28, 2007, on charges of "illegally crossing the border" (Article 233 of the Uzbek Penal Code) and "importing banned materials / smuggling" (Article 246). She faces from three to ten years in prison. Later on, Mrs. Umida Niyazova was additionally charged with "collecting and distributing material threatening the public security" (Article 244 of the Penal Code).

Mrs. Umida Niyazova was then transferred to the Tashkent prison’s investigation ward n°1.

These arrest and proceedings follow her previous arrest, on December 21, 2006, as Mrs. Niyazova was arriving from Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan), at Tashkent airport. Indeed, she was shortly arrested after that customs officers and a staff member of the Uzbek Press and Information Agency’s Monitoring Department examined her laptop and declared that it contained material of an "anti-constitutional" and "religious" nature. This material was relating to the Andijan massacre in May 2005 and contained in particular interviews with witnesses and victims of the massacre. Reportedly, the woman could also be accused of belonging to the radical Islamist movement Akramia.

After more than nine hours of detention, Mrs. Umida Niyazova was allowed to go back home but her passport, laptop and flash-card were confiscated. She was also asked not to leave Tashkent and to cooperate with the investigation. On the grounds of the materials confiscated, the Tashkent City Customs Department launched an administrative case against Mrs. Niyazova. On January 22, 2007, her lawyer had convinced her that this administrative case had been dropped and that she could collect her belongings and passport.

Actions required:

Please write to the Uzbek authorities urging them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mrs. Umida Niyazova;

ii. Release Mrs. Umida Niyazova immediately and unconditionally since her detention is arbitrary;

iii. Ensure that Mrs. Umida Niyazova be granted a fair and impartial trial if she decides to appeal her sentence, so that the charges against her be dropped as they seem to merely sanction her human rights activities and as such are arbitrary

iv. Put an end to all acts of harassment against Mrs. Umida Niyazova as well as all other human rights defenders in Uzbekistan;

v. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially its article 1, which states that "everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels" and article 12.2, which states that "the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration";

vi. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Uzbekistan.

Addresses :

· President of Uzbekistan, Islam Abduganiyevich Karimov, ul. Uzbekistanskaya 43, Rezidentsia prezidenta, 700163 Tashkent, Republic of Uzbekistan, Fax: +998 71 133 1395325, E-mail: presidents_office@press-service.uz

· Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Elyor Majidovich Ganiev, Respublika Uzbekistan; 700029 g. Tashkent; pl. Mustakillik, 5; Ministerstvo inostrannykh del RU, S.S., Uzbekistan, Fax: + 998 71 139 15 17, E-mail: rnews@mfa.uz

· Parliamentary Commissioner for Human Rights, Sayora Rashidova, ul. Xalqlar Dostligi 1, 700035 Tashkent, Republic of Uzbekistan, Fax: +998 71 139 85 55, E-mail: office@ombudsman.gov.uz

· Chairman of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Ubaydulla Mingbaev, Respublika Uzbekistan; 700183 g. Tashkent; ul. Abdulla Kodiri, 1; Verkhovny Sud Respubliki Uzbekistan, Fax: + 998 71 144-62-93

· General Prosecutor of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Rashidjon Hamidovich Kodirov, ul. Gulyamova 66, 700047 Tashkent, Republic of Uzbekistan, Fax: +998 71 133 39 17, E-mail: prokuratura@lawyer.com

· National Centre for Human Rights, Senator Akmal Saidov Natsionalny tsentr po pravam cheloveka, 5/3, Mustakillik Maidoni, g. Tashkent, Respublika Uzbekistan. 700029, Fax: + 998 71 139 13 56 / 45 16, E-mail: office@nchr.uz

· Ambassador of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Uzbekistan to the United Nations in Geneva, PO Box 1853, 1215 Geneva 15, Switzerland, Fax: +4122 799 43 02, E-mail: uzbekistan@bluewin.ch

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Uzbekistan in your respective countries.

***

Geneva - Paris, May 3, 2007

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

The Observatory was the winner of the 1998 Human Rights Prize of the French Republic.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
Email : Appeals@fidh-omct.org
Tel et fax FIDH : + 33 1 43 55 55 05 / 33 1 43 55 18 80
Tel et fax OMCT : +41 22 809 49 39 / 41 22 809 49 29

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